Wednesday, December 30, 2009

If Guacamole and Salsa aren't on the Menu, then this ain't Texas

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Hayes Carll is 50 miles from San Antonio, Texas that Craig and I and our friends, Jerry and Tracy will be at the show.


In fact, Tracy and I drove all the way to Houston once to see a show with my travel fiend friend Carrie. He's a great voice, but he also puts on a great show. It's doubly fun when the John Evans Band open for him. His eclectic sound ranges from swing to Texas Country in the space of seconds and he puts on a show that people talk of for days.


Last night they set the bass on fire. While the bassist was playing it and never missing a beat. It was fantastic!

I'd never been to this place before even though I a) love live music b) love food and c) was raised in San Antonio and have been living here for a decade. It's not on the best side of town and very near another great restaurant, Josephine Street. Well I think it's great. Craig keeps telling me this, but he never actually has taken me yet.


I ordered a Guacamole Jack chicken sandwich which arrived minus the Guacamole. Huh. The waitress told me that they were out of Guac. I stared at her. Huh. She asked if I wanted avocado slices on it. Um Yeah. and mash it up with a little salt and pepper and garlic please? Actually I didn't say that because they were slammed and I like my food minus server spit. I did take the avocado though. Cuz really, why eat anything in Texas without guacamole or salsa. I didn't get this trim figure eating celery and tofu ya know.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for me (and T---tma)

I am actually proud of myself for sticking with this blog for the last few months. I haven't told anyone about it...well that's not true. I tell people about it, I just don't tell them WHERE it is :) So in itself this blog has been an accomplishment for me. It's a way to show myself that I can in fact stick with something if I set my mind to it.

So with that in mind I decided I want to make a few New Year's Resolutions that pertain to both my personal life and this blog.

1. I want to be in more travel pictures. This past year I have very VERY few pictures of me because I run from cameras like they spew flames with every snap because I don't like the way I look. And whose fault is that really? In August to prepare myself for our yearly Labor Day couples vacation, I lost 12 pounds with the Biggest Lost 30 day Jumpstart. I LOVED the food, but it's a lot of work. And really what in life isn't? So to achieve this goal, I resolve to use the new Biggest Loser cookbooks to cook healthy meals and lose 50 pounds by the August Berlin/Prague trip. To keep myself on track, I will post here the best food I loved and/or the most troubling dishes. I will NOT be posting a monthly weight update. However EVERY trip I take will have pictures of me and hopefully the differences each month will be noticeable.

In 1997 when I went to Europe the first time with my friend Carrie, she told me that EVERY picture had to have one of us in it. I juxtapose this with the last pictures I take and would love a happy medium. I have some great pictures of scenery marred only by a travel bedraggled woman with bed head (from sleeping on trains) that I really wish we would have taken without us in them. There has to be a happy medium.

2. I want to track what I read. In 2008 I resolved to track EVERY book I read. It was over 200 books. I read. A lot. And that was fun but not what I want to do again. I read about a bookstore in New York that groups books according to location. Supposedly you can email them a location and they will send you a list of books that you can buy from them that uses that location as a setting. Well I emailed and as of now I haven't heard back, but I can only imagine their puffed out inbox after being featured in a premier travel magazine. This led me to thinking that I want to do that here. I want to track everything I read based on location. I will list the labels on the blog so that anyone can link to a series of books based on the label for any location that I have read.
CAVEAT: I will not be listing all of the historical romances that I read like crazy because seven hundred London books set in the 1820s really isn't THAT informative for anyone who wants to read.

3. I want to spend less on crap. This pertains to T---tma because I have a tendency to buy any seemingly homemade crapola from any old native when I travel. Yesterday at breakfast I pulled out a bread basket made from Provencal material.



and told my husband that I wasn't going to buy any more souvenirs that I knew I wouldn't use. I wanted more like the breadbasket (or hell even a a coffee mug) and less of the jade (very very costly) elephant I got in Paris. WTH was I thinking? I mean who else doesn't immediately think of Paris when they see a Jade elephant???

Strangely enough that very day on the way to my inlaws I was reading a magazine article about the UNsouvenir. The author's main purpose was to buy items that the LOCALS use. I'm not going this far really. I just want to buy items that *I* will use. Like the candy dish from Mount Vernon I use to hold my jewelry


4. Learn something new I commit to this every year. But as I'm travelling to Czech Republic and Germany I'd like to learn enough conversational German to get by and quite a bit more Czech. We even get a Czech paper through our life insurance so I will have practice!

I think that's enough for this year. I've decided to go for the full marathon this year if I get chosen for Nike Women's Marathon again so I will have to start walking like mad very very very soon (like today). I turn 36 this year and with respect to my family's life expectancy half of my life is over. I want to really enjoy the second half!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

$200 for 25 pounds...a DKNY Cozy for me...

I only hope I can do this before it is too hot to wear the sucker. I'd love to have A DKNY COZY for our cruise because it is so perfectly versatile for evenings and semi-cold weather. I wouldn't try to brave winter in Helsinki with it, but it's the PERFECT weight for South Texas.

The caveat: They only come in size XS/S and M/L. M/L being size 8-14.

CrazyAuntPurl raves about hers.

Apparently at one time they had a L/XL version. So here is my deal. I want to lose 25 pounds and this will be my reward. This is EXACTLY the type of outergarment I like to travel with. It can be layered perfectly, worn on the plane so it doesn't need to be packed, and can match anything. I will be keeping an eye on the DKNY site and checking local stores to see who carries them.

They even have a DKNY COZY APP for those crazy maniacal emergencies where you need to know how to wrap your cozy and you need it NOW. This would be funnier if I didn't fully intend to download this sucker in case of travel related cozy emergencies myself.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas....a gift for you (packing 101)

On the way to packing for NFR in Vegas my husband complained about how his boots took up so much room. This led me to one of my packing lectures in which I invoked Rule #2 of the Cardinal Law of Packing.

Thou Shalt Wear Your Largest Pair of Shoes on the Plane.

Double points to your if these shoes:

a) *slip on and off without laces, hooks, or straps.
b) *require socks.
c) are comfortable.

So Cowboy boots are the pinnacle of shoes to wear of an airplane as they cover all of these. ESPECIALLY if for Christmas you get a pair of Lucchese boots that you never want to take off.

I have me some BIG FEET anyway (read Size 11 Peggy Hill feet)


so buying shoes is as fun for me as getting my various body parts waxed. I was surprising Craig with a pair of Lucchese boots for Christmas. These boots are the most comfortable cowboy boots known to man. And when I saw the various styles I knew I needed some. Unfortunately only a couple of stores carry my size so I had to travel extra distance to get my pair. As soon as I saw these beauties I knew they were mine.


I had been envying The Pioneer Woman hers for months now. But I was torn, brown or black? I settled for the brown pair because these suckers are expensive and no way could I get both.

BUT Craig calls me from work and says, guess your getting your black pair after all. His boss (the one who had bought me my treasured suitcase) had given him a $200 gift card to the Lucchese store here in town. This could be put TOWARD a pair of boots (which should give you an idea of how expensive these beauties can be!) So I bought these as well. Snoopy dancing did in fact occur.

*The reason for these two is of course the dreader airport security line where you don't want to be trapped having to tie/untie shoes and you DEFINITELY don't want to be walking around there in bare feet. I get the shivers even thinking about it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How old is too old? Aka but this used to be a sushi bar...

Next year I'm putting myself on a money diet (actually a food diet too but that's another story) and I'm looking at one of my major expenses.....books. Now I'm not foolish enough to think I could go cold turkey on book buying ( I would rather give up air) so I'm already planning my economization. Used book stores. For the most part this is a good idea, but do I really want to buy old travel information?

What if the great hotel listed is now a flea ridden hovel. Or worse a bed and breakfast. My husband would rather eat glass than share a restroom or breakfast conversation. And seriously I plan so far in advance I'm using old books anyway! So where is my cut off??

For now (and I'm completely reserving the right to change my mind as I am in fact a woman) I am limiting used travel books to two years old. For general location info I may choose older books ( because really how much has the Eiffel Tower) changed in 100 years I will go as old as five years. And I will certainly complain if this blows up in my face. As I said I am a woman.

Which means it's Craig's fault anyway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I gotta secret.....

And I'm bursting to post it because I'm sure no one actually reads my blog. I haven't even told my friends about it yet. I'm waiting until the new year and then I'll let everyone know.

But I promised I wouldn't say anything yet so I won't. I have told my husband and my travel buddy so she can start planning. I'm ready to BURST. I can't wait to share.

Nobody likes a showoff---and yet I just can't help myself.

Once I've managed to accomplish something I find it hard not to work it in to every conversation. I'm quite the manipulative conversationalist masterfully bringing up an innocuous topic I have preplanned to end as I want.

Craig, having been married to me for almost 17 years now recognizes when I do this and will often ask how long I've been waiting to bring THAT word or topic into a conversation. A few days ago, we passed a Tapas bar and I mentioned that I wondered if a gift card of mine was valid at that tapas bar.

Craig actually snorted. "I highly doubt it."

"Why?" I asked, clueless.

"They wouldn't give you a gift card to a topless bar."

"No," I stress. "A TAPAS bar."

"What's tapas?" He asks.

"I'm not sure, like Spanish appetizers?"

Silence for a few seconds.

"You've been waiting to use that one haven't you?" Um NO! I think. Not that time at least.

Really the only reason I knew what tapas was and how it SOUNDS like topless was because I had just send the movie I Hate Valentine's Day.

However, yesterday I DID bring up the fact that Eurostar (as of this day) has shut down indefinitely. Now this is exactly what I am horrible at. Bringing up random travel info ONLY so that I can trap someone into saying, "You've been there right?" And may answer is smarmy and sweet, much like mine to Craig yesterday when he asked if I have been on the Eurostar.

"Of course," I smarmed. "Several times."

He has to love me. Or he wouldn't put up with me!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monticello pictures (that were promised)

Monticello without a tourist in sight:


A Little wet:


Monticello Views:

A Peaceful Walk:


Saturday, December 19, 2009

In which I get philosophical (Without pictures)

But I promise pictures soon. They are on my phone and I keep forgetting to upload them to this computer.

Last Saturday my older son and I went to help build a house in total mud and muck. My shoes are in the garage still with at least 3 inches of mud caked on the bottom. Likely more. When we woke up I was sorely tempted to NOT go but I realized life doesn't wait for good weather and this led to a philosophical mind wandering I really shouldn't ahve gone on considering my son was driving. In the rain.

Last year I went to visit my friend Kathryn in DC and we decided to take a day to visit Monticello. I was really looking forward to it and was a little worried that the day we had planned was wet and nasty and we passed an over turned car and two wrecks on the way. Small signs that sailing was less than smooth.

But we marched on and when we arrived wet and weary to a near empty site I realized it was ALL WORTH IT. I was able to take pictures of the grounds that no one else could. No tourists marred my still shots and taking the country lane to the cemetery was peaceful and quiet and to this day I remember the feeling in my chest as I walked the path of one of our countries forefathers,

It made me realize that waiting for that perfect day, or the perfect weather or the perfect situation will mean that you will spend more time waiting doing nothing when in fact the trip that you will never forget is there for the taking.

CAVEAT: don't try to weather out hurricane though, k???

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free advice....comes with a price

Since I travel so much I invariable get questions about best deals and suggestions for travel. My personal favorite comes from people who want me to just plan their trip for them. Oh yeah, because I don't have enough to do raising three kids and a husband, owning my own company, and going to graduate school. I'd LOVE to plan your week long excursion to the far west spending no more than $50/night on hotels.

I like to talk to people about travel but I have to be careful because sometimes people cling to you like a bronc rider needing the NFR standings (how is that for my rodeo allusion for the week?) when they find out you travel and treat you like the Great Oracle of Delphi. I cannot plan your vacation people. Because I AM NOT YOU. I could send you on my dream vacation and it would drive you insane. Or bore you to tears. Or scare you out of your wits. I have no idea what you want to do on vacation because most of the time *I* don't know what I want to do on vacation.

Take a single place, Las Vegas. Sometimes we go to Vegas and all I want to do it chill at the spa. Other times I want to stay up all not gaming. Then other times I want to take in as many shows as possible. Vegas is a great spot to cover all of these. A cruise also offers a lot of options. A city like San Antonio does not. And frankly I don't want to hear your life story about how you need a vacation. I can help you with a specific, like a hotel recommendation that *I* like (translation: It may be your worst nightmare). Or why I travel on a certain airline (translation: Frequent Flyer Miles baby!) But I am not going to tell you what works for YOU. Only you can do that with years of experience and knowing yourself.

I've found that I'm not a big first time person. It is almost guaranteed that I will NOT enjoy a placew the first tiem I visit (exception Italy). I hated Vegas the first time I went. Thought I'd NEVER go back (and here I am almost a dozen trips later in 3 years). Cruising was the same way. Sometime I will share that exruciating trip but i will wait until my next one (in March) to compare. Becuase maybe it was because it was new and different that I had trouble and not the fact that I just don't like cruising. Who knows?

What I do know is that I love when people ask my opinion. The last trip to our favorite hotel in Vegas was "meh" and it made me realize that we can try other hotels there so we don't get bogged down. I immediately came home, joined the "clubs" of other hotels to get notification of sales and waited for the deals to come in. When my skin care person told me she wanted to get away in January I was quick to share not only the email I got from the Venetian about a great special but also the all inclusives email I received from Cheap Carribean since I know she loves Mexico.

Either way I am just giving suggestions and I HOPE she knows I'm not endorsing anything. Which I will, if they paid me enough and then I would have a big sticker over every post about how I'm a paid endorser for a hotel or a cruise. I'm willing to do that? Anyone willing to pay me????

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Netbook purchase...and earphone suggestion

I ordered the Toshiba choice in Pink because it came with a mouse and softcover case as well. Craig and I used it on the trip to Vegas. We had no trouble playing a 2.5 hour movie. This is supercool for me because most of my computers have died at this time. Here it is with a small tumbler next to it to give you some idea of size.


Notice the keyboard takes up the whole base. But they are full sized which I like. I also loved that it fit nicely inside of my travel purse (aka the Let's Make a Deal purse because everything and the living room lamp fits inside).


I love that purse. I bought it because it was similar to a Birkin for $25 bucks and OMG the compliments I get on that purse when I travel.

A major setback for netbooks is that they have no CDRom so any software you want on the computer must be added via the internet or a flash drive. This was cool for me as I just wanted to VIEW office products and not work on them. I only take a few working vacations and when I do I'd take my fullsized computer anyway. This is PERFECT for when you want to travel and FUN is the main event.

I would however like to suggest an earphone splitter. I had never heard of these until someone on a BB i frequent mentioned them. For anyone travelling in pairs and wanting to watch the same movies these are great. I am not particularly fond of the ones I have and will probably get a better set soon (esp. for the trip to Europe with my son) but here is a place to check out options.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Curious George and the Catholic School Girl

Last Sunday I dressed up as a Catholic School Girl to appear in the audience of a show I am contractually obligated not to speak of in any manner. So I won't go into any details about that experience per se but I do want to talk about a person we met while waiting for the interview. Standing behind my mother in law was a man wearing an NFR jacket. Apparently he owned the bull Curious George who was performing the next night at the rodeo. This was serendipitous as WE were attending the rodeo the next night. So i was sure to video Curious George's performance :)

Curious George won....barely. Actually the stock for Bull Riding won all the events that night. Not a single cowboy made the 8 seconds! And if one of them had they would have won over $58000 for 8 seconds of a ride. I was tempted to shove Craig down there on the bull for that amount of money!

This made bronc riding look like a tea party. Or the bare back (saddle? I don't need no stinkin' saddle)

Now what impressed me the most were the calf ropers. Single man ropes the calf jumps off moving horse, flips the 300 pound calf then ties 3 limbs together and gets back on the horse. in 7 seconds. Watch the horse. They pay good money for horses trained to do that. Not an inch slack in that rope!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Las Vegas---the City of Love (in an elevator)

Read the article published by Los Angeles Times.,0,5491411.story

"And the heroines it depicted lived out female professional -- not necessarily sexual -- fantasies long before they became reality."

This was posted on a message board I frequent so Tracy and I went to see the display at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. What was really cool is that last year I volunteered to be my daughter's cheer coach (I know don't fall out of your chairs) and the head coach is a romance author who writes under the name of Kimberly Raye.

The display was very interesting really. About the history of Harlequin (it was originally a male/female publisher of mystery type books until the owners wife said hey I think Romance is the way to go!!!)

Here is the hotel:


The display (which was a bit hidden and hard to find :)


Kim's book on display:

How glad I am the covers have gome from this:


to this!!!


Next up tomorrow....RODEO! Long Live Cowboys!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Is it really so much to ask...

that when the luggage comes around the carousel people don't RUSH to stand right in the way of the luggage going by? Can't everyone step back a bit and then move forward when the SEE their bag actually coming. Nothing annoys me more about flying that having to pick up checked luggage. I usually avoid this as much as possible but had to do it coming back from Vegas (3 full sized bottles of free liquor didn't fit in my quart sized bag).

The Rum and Vodka (times two) better be worth it!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

am I blue?

And what is with all my song titles lately? I am packing for my trip to VEGAS, BABY and threw all my clothes on the floor in a great big pile (which I will sort out and neatly pack later, but first I wanted to make sure everything I wanted was clean) I looked back and noticed a little trend with the clothes I picked. Notice anything????


Heh so maybe I wear A LOT of blue!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

S(sss)A(aaa)F(fff)E(eee)T(ttt)Y(yyy) Safety Safety Dance (dancedancedance)

Magellan sent me another email chockful of Safety Tips for travel (some of which are obvious and others are flagrant ploys to sell their products) but I did note a few which I wanted to remember and share:

Safe Travel Tips

Be aware of those around you. Crowded international airports are terrific for pickpockets, as jet-lagged, disoriented travelers are easy marks. Keep a close eye on your belongings, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted if someone “accidentally” bumps into you or drops something in front of you. I have what my husband affectionately calls my Pantheon Hold. I make sure the purse zipper is facing the front and I hold the purse at the zipper closure so that even if a pickpocket tries to cut my strap i've got a hold on the purse.

Prevent theft of carry-on items. When going through airport security, make sure that the metal detector is clear and ready for you to enter before you send your carry-on items through X-ray.

Avoid the first floor as ground floor windows and sliding glass doors are much more accessible than those above.
This is not usually a problem in Europe where rooms are rarely on the ground floor. Note that the first floor in Europe is the second floor in America and if you ask for a second floor in a hotel in Prague, you will end up on what we consider the third floor!

When checking in, be discreet when disclosing personal information. If the hotel clerk gives you your room number verbally, ask for a different room. If you are a solo woman traveler, check in as Mr. and Mrs.

Don’t leave valuables in your room. If you must travel with valuables, secure them in the hotel safe. Love the rooms in Vegas which have an inroom smart don't use 1234!!!

Keep the door locked when in your room, and never open the door to unexpected visitors. Use a door stop alarm to alert you to unwanted intruders, and check with the front desk to verify the identity of maintenance personnel before you let them in.
OR you could be double preventive and set your luggage in front of the door to avoid bed bugs and warn you of intruders.

When you are out for the day, keep the room key with you rather than turning it in at the front desk. I did this ONCE in Europe and never again. I stressed over it all day. Never again.

Park in well–lit areas, and never leave any visible belongings in your car.

Don’t draw attention to yourself with expensive clothing or jewelry, as this makes you an attractive target. Similarly know what clothes are appropriate in a country. When my friend and I met her mother in italy, her mother searched half a day for shorts to wear. Finally I mentioned to a shopkeeper the problem we were having and she told us the reason we couldn't find any shorts is because in Europe shorts are worn ONLY at the beach. She said Europeans always know who Americans are because of the shorts. I took this to heart. When I took a group of high school kids to London and Paris, I made them promise not to pack any shorts. There is no reason to wear what amounts to a flashing "I AM AMERICAN" sign all around a foreign city!

Don’t leave your camera hanging around your neck. When not in use tuck it in a pocket or purse.
Or hanging from your wrist. I had a camera cut off my wrist in New Orleans once. The camera I didn't care about. All the pictures I lost makes my heart hurt.

Don't show your money. Pickpockets observe travelers when shopping, and then later know exactly which pocket to pick. Use a money belt or security wallet to keep your valuables out of sight and close to your body, and tuck a little “mad money” in a front pocket for the day’s expenses.

Divide up your funds so that if your wallet is taken, you have a back up supply (in your socks or elsewhere) to get you back on track. Be careful with this. I once lost 10 pounds in England because it fell out of my pants. I get back to the hotel room told Carrie I had lost 10 pounds and she said "Because of all the walking" and I said no because my jeans were too tight and I didn't get the bill in far enough. We both cracked up laughing thinking that losing 10 pounds can be an awesome thing too! Unfortunately it wasn't for me that day. Make sure your back ups are reliable!

Don't accept food or drinks from strangers. They may contain drugs that will knock you out, creating opportunity for a thorough robbery or worse. Like DUH!
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